Arm Balances – Learning to Fly With Confidence

Many yoga practitioners today have a tendency to be intimidated by challenging-looking arm balance poses.  So many times my fellow yogi girlfriends give me the ‘not in this lifetime’ look when I point out asanas such as Bhujanpidanasa in yoga publications or on the web.  Interestingly enough, it’s not just women who are intimidated to lift off – even men find these poses challenging and can easily develop a ‘fear of flying’.
The main reason arm balances are so challenging is that they require both upper body strength (which men generally possess more of then women) and flexibility (which is the reverse – women usually have more than men).  That being said, what is even the point of attempting to get into these difficult poses and what benefit do they have?
Speaking from a woman’s point of view, the part that thrills me the most about arm balances is the sheer amount of strength and power I feel when I am able to set myself up and fly away from the mat.  It gives me such a sense of empowerment and accomplishment; I feel truly independent and extremely capable.  This feeling extends beyond my mat and translates into everyday life and it gives me a great deal of confidence (something most women could use more of these days).
Strictly speaking from a fitness point of view, practicing arm balances tones the entire upper torso including the chest, arms, shoulders, upper and lower back and, very importantly, the deep core muscles in the abdomen.  For women especially, we have a tendency not to be naturally strong in these areas.  Working on strengthening these parts of our bodies will improve all over fitness and strength, building important muscles and bone mass that will ward off osteoporosis later in life.  In addition, practicing any balance pose, including arm balances, helps strengthen the balance reflexes and prevent falls.  It’s never too late to begin working on these poses because studies have shown that the body responds to the challenge by building muscle and bone mass even in the later decades of life.
Practicing poses such as Adho Mukha Svanasana and Santolasana and well as Chaturanga Dandasana will prepare you for you’re eventual lift off.  In the future, learning to master arm balances will not only give you confidence on the mat, just watch what it can do for your everyday life as well.